Westhill improves to 12-1 with win over Staples
WESTPORT — It’s understandable if Sanjana Nayak gets lost from time to time among the taller, heavy-hitting front line that the Westhill Vikings boast this volleyball season.
In Wednesday night’s 3-1 win FCIAC win over host Staples, however, it was Nayak who came up with the two biggest kills of the night as Westhill walked away with a 25-9, 25-21, 24-26, 25-23 victory.
The junior helped cap a furious Vikings rally in the fourth, capping a run of eight straight points with two perfectly placed kills to sew up the match.
“Before we got those two points, all I remember is Coach saying, ‘Let’s fight and win this in four,’ ” Nayak said. “So I just said we’re not going five. I’m not letting my team down. I have to get these balls over.”
After Staples won Game 3 and built a 23-17 lead on Westhill in the fourth game, the match appeared to be headed to a fifth set.
One Staples miscue, however, gave Westhill the point and side out it needed to run the table and take the win.
“At the end, honestly, I just looked at them and said let’s just fight for once to win a game that you want to win and they literally looked and me and said, ‘We’re doing it,’ ” Westhill coach Marianna Capomolla said.
After night of dominating hitting and blocking, Nayak might have been the player to catch the Wreckers off guard, but her teammates knew the ball was in capable hands.
“Of course we all trust her,” teammate Tamar Bellete said. “She’s very smart when she’s placing the ball. She knows where to put it to end the point.”
One reason for Westhill’s 12-1 start to the season is the team’s ability to trust everybody up and down the roster.
Statistically, it showed in the win over the Wreckers.
Betsy Sachs had 13 kills, five digs and five blocks to go with nine service points; Nikki Newcomer had nine kills, 17 digs and six service points; Nina Bakuradze had 24 digs and six service points; Sophia Thagouras had 23 assists, five kills and 13 service points and Vasiliki Servos chipped in with 17 assists and 13 digs.
“The team this year, we’re all so close and connected,” Bellete said. “We know each other and we encourage each other and that’s one big thing that separates us from other teams.”
The team, Capomolla said, trusts her and the process.
“It’s the structure and having them trust in me, and I trust in them,” the coach said. “They believe in what I’m teaching and it’s a huge trust thing.”
After Westhill won the first two games to take a commanding lead, Staples coach Jon Shepro challenged his team and they responded.
Led by Bella Jagenberg (23 kills, 2 blocks, 1 ace), the Wreckers earned the win in Game 3, 26-24.
“I don’t know what turned it around, but it seems like that’s what our season has been about,” said Shepro, whose team slipped to 8-5. “It takes us a while to get going and we shoot ourselves in the foot.”
Jagenberg made sure the game wasn’t a sweep as she notched two kills early in Game 4 to help Staples take a 4-1 lead.
“She’s unbelievable,” Shepro said. “We give her the ball whenever we can and she’s able to put it down more often than not. She works so hard. It’s nice to see her doing so well.”
Isabella Siskind added seven kills while Elizabeth Murray had 32 assists for the Wreckers.
“I think we got ahead of ourselves and that’s what led us to lose the third game,” Capomolla said. “But they’re a good team. We just didn’t play to the best of our abilities.”
“It’s unbelievable how far Westhill has come,” Shepro said. “They’re coach has a done a great job down there. They run a nice program.”
WESTHILL 3, STAPLES 1
WESTHILL 25 25 24 25
STAPLES 9 21 26 23
Records: Westhill 12-1, Staples 8-5; Highlights: W—Betsy Sachs (13 kills, 5 digs, 5 blocks), Nikki Newcomer (9 kills, 17 digs), Nina Bakuradze (24 digs), Sophia Thagouras (23 assists), Vasiliki Servos (17 assists, 13 digs); S—Bella Jagenberg (23 kills), Isabella Siskind (7 kills), Elizabeth Murray (32 assists).